Jalapeño mac and cheese is a spicy twist on the classic comfort food; it’s rich, creamy, and cheesy with the perfect amount of heat in each gooey forkful. Serve it hot, bubbly out of the oven as a delicious side dish at Sunday dinners, cookouts, barbecues, and potlucks.
If you need another delicious side to take to the cookout, try my Creamy Potato Salad next!
Jalapeño mac and cheese is macaroni and cheese with a spicy kick. If you like jalapeño poppers and mac and cheese, then you’re bound to fall in love with this ultra creamy jalapeño macaroni and cheese. Pull up with a large pot full of jalapeño mac and cheese and you’ll always be invited to the cookout!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS JALAPEÑO MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE
- Better Than the Boxed Stuff. Put down the Kraft and grab a large skillet because you’re about to make the best jalapeño mac and cheese!
- Quick and Easy. Made without flour or a complicated roux, this hearty side dish still comes out perfectly creamy. Prepare it on a busy weeknight. With just 15 minutes of prep time and another 15 minutes of cook time in the oven, dinner will be ready before you know it!
- The Perfect Side for Every Occasion. This side dish is perfect for cookouts, barbecues, gatherings, and holidays.
Jalapeño Mac and Cheese Ingredients
- Butter: Salted or unsalted.
- Heavy Cream: For the creamiest texture, this is a necessity.
- Garlic Paste: You can buy this or make it at home. See the instructions below in the recipe notes.
- Short pasta noodles: You can use whichever macaroni you prefer; elbow macaroni, penne, cavatappi, bow tie, etc. Just prepare it al dente.
- Cheese: I opt for milder cheese in this jalapeño mac and cheese recipe so the peppers can really shine. I use Mexican blend cheese and mild cheddar cheese.
- Sour Cream: Add this for an extra zing of flavor.
- Jalapeños: Chopped for mixing in, and sliced into circles for topping. Remove the seeds and ribs for less spice.
- Seasoning: Bayou City All Purpose Seasoning, Bayou City Garlic Pepper, lemon pepper, smoked paprika (plus more for topping). I excluded salt because it’s contained in some of the seasonings listed above.
How To Make Jalapeño Mac and Cheese
Prepare Cheese Sauce
Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a saucepan melt butter. Once the butter is melted, toss in roasted garlic paste and season with 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tbsp Bayou City AP, 1 tbsp Bayou City GP, 1 tsp Smoked Paprika, and 1 tsp lemon pepper. Whisk together while mashing up that garlic paste until combined and cook for 3 minutes.
Pour heavy cream into a saucepan and bring to a low simmer and then stir in 2 cups Mexican blend cheese. Let simmer for 8 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Bring water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente (about 8 minutes).
Combine Pasta and Cheese Sauce
Drain pasta and while the pasta is still hot, place in a large bowl and mix in the rest of your Mexican blend cheese (2 cups), your cheese sauce, and 1 jalapeño chopped. Mix well and place in a 10” Cast iron or 2 qt baking dish.
Bake Jalapeño Mac and Cheese
Top with 2 cups of mild cheddar making sure to evenly cover the top and 1 jalapeño (sliced into a circle). Then sprinkle with some smoked paprika. Place in the oven for 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
- Spicy: Add hot sauce like Tabasco, Texas Pete, or Tapatio. Add pepper jack cheese for a spicier cheese sauce.
- Mild: Use just one jalapeño instead of two or use mild green chiles
- Bacon Jalapeño Mac and Cheese: Fry up some thick-cut bacon, dice it, and add it to the cheese sauce for a savory, salty burst of flavor.
- Cream Cheese: Add this to the cheese for a deep, tangy flavor that more closely tastes like jalapeño poppers.
- Cheese: Use mozzarella, Monterey jack, or Velveeta as an alternative to the other cheeses used in this recipe.
- Crunchy: For a satisfying crunchy topping, add bread crumbs to your mac and cheese. Panko works best.
- Use gloves when handling jalapeño peppers. Remember not to touch your eyes.
- Grate block cheese instead of purchasing pre-shredded cheese. Pre-shredded cheese is coated in a waxy anti-clumping substance that prevents the cheese from melting easily. So freshly grated cheese is best.
- Prepare the pasta al dente. Baked jalapeño mac and cheese continues to cook in the oven so you don’t want your noodles to be overcooked.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. For longer storage, freeze for up to 2 months. When you want to reheat, defrost in the fridge overnight. Then gently warm up single portions in the microwave.
Frequently Asked Questions
What cheeses go best together for mac and cheese?
Traditional macaroni cheese pairs best with strongly flavored cheeses that also melt well. I suggest sharp cheddar cheese, gruyere, and fontina.
Can jalapeño mac and cheese be made ahead of time?
Yes! Prepare the mac and cheese and just before baking, cover the dish with foil and refrigerate. Bake within two days. Before baking, allow it to sit and come to room temperature (about 30 minutes).
If you loved this Jalapeño Mac and Cheese recipe, let me know in the comments. For more delicious recipes, follow me on TikTok and Instagram!
Best Jalapeno Mac and Cheese
- 1 2 Quart Baking Dish
- 10 Cast Iron
- ¼ cup Butter
- 4 cups Heavy Cream
- 2 tbsp Garlic Paste you can buy this or make it at home, instructions in the notes
- 16 oz Short pasta noodle of your choice ex: elbow, penne, bow tie, etc
- 4 cups Mexican Blend Cheese
- 2 cups Mild Cheddar
- 1 tbsp Sour Cream
- 2 Jalapeños 1 chopped for mix in, and one sliced into circles for topping
- 1 tbsp Bayou City All Purpose Seasoning
- 1 tbsp Bayou City Garlic Pepper
- 1 tsp Lemon Pepper
- 1 tsp Smoked Paprika plus more for topping
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a saucepan melt 1/2 cup of butter.
- Once butter is melted, toss in roasted garlic paste and season with 1 tsp smoked paprika,1 tbsp Bayou City AP, 1 tbsp Bayou City GP, 1 tsp Smoked Paprika, and 1 tsp lemon pepper. Whisk together while mashing up that garlic paste until combined and cook for 3 minutes.
- Pour heavy cream into a sauce pan and bring to a low simmer and then add in 2 cups Mexican blend cheese. Let simmer for 8 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Bring water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente (about 8 minutes).
- Drain pasta and while pasta is still hot place in a large bowl and mix in the rest of your Mexican blend cheese (2 cups), your cheese sauce, and 1 jalapeño chopped. Mix well and place in a 10” cast iron or 2 qt baking dish.
- Top with 2 cups of mild cheddar making sure to evenly cover the top and 1 jalapeño (sliced into a circle). Sprinkle with some smoked paprika.
- Place in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Let cool for 10 minutes.